August 16, 2022

From Hack to Ship: Zynga’s Annual Hackathon Creates New Games, Community, and Fun

Last month, Zynga hosted the company’s annual hackathon where hundreds of Zyngites from various studios and departments around the world teamed up to create innovative new projects and game features. The ultimate goal: to see your hack ship.

Teams were located across six countries including Canada, India, Spain, Turkey, the UK, and the US. This was the first Zynga hackathon since the combination with Take-Two in May, and it was exciting to have our Take-Two mobile teams join in on the fun. 

“The hackathon is about providing team members with the opportunity to carve out time for creativity and innovation,” said Scott Koenigsberg, Chief Product Officer and executive sponsor of the hackathon. “A lot of the value really lies in teams dedicating time to focus and tap into new ideas that can potentially deliver value to our business and delight to players.”

During the four-day event, hackathon teams took a break from their day-to-day work to channel their creativity and design and code new game ideas. In true hybrid event fashion, some teams collaborated via video conferencing, while others were seen laughing and high-fiving one another in our global studios as they passionately developed their projects.

“The feedback and counseling we received from judges and mentors was invaluable to us,” said Rahul Pareek, a Senior Software Engineer and hackathon participant based in Bangalore, India. “Overall, it was a dynamic, inspiring, and fun experience. The best part was the sense of community and shared accomplishments.”

Zynga’s hackathons are effective in contributing to a culture of creativity and collaboration at Zynga, and one of the most rewarding aspects is seeing hackathon projects ship to market. 

A winning project idea from Zynga’s 2020 hackathon has since been incorporated into one of Zynga’s games. The winning feature is called “Poker Omaha,” created for the Zynga Poker game. Omaha is a version of Texas Hold’Em poker where players are dealt four hole cards, instead of two, and the best hand must consist of exactly two hole cards and three community cards. Now featured in Zynga Poker, this feature introduces players to a new play strategy and allows for more frequent wins, larger pots, and faster rounds.    

Pictured below is the prototype that was presented to the judges in Zynga’s 2020 hackathon, followed by images from “Omaha” as it exists in Zynga Poker today.      

Omaha Hackathon Project:

Omaha Game Today:

At the end of this year’s hackathon, teams presented their final projects to a panel of judges who received fifteen project entries from ten Zynga and Take-Two studios. The winning projects were presented in a companywide showcase, and prizes will be granted to members of the winning teams. 

The winning categories and teams for the 2022 Hackathon include: 

  • Best Overall Hack: Brad Brown, Chintan Patel, Nicholas Bailon, Sam Sintz
  • Best New Tool/Tech: Aakarsh Saxena, Akash Agrawal, Rahul Pareek
  • Best New Game Idea: Gautham Krishna, Mita Samanta, Vrushank Gajjar, Yashpal Javia
  • Best New Feature for Existing Game: Brian Callan, Jaclyn McKay, Jalen Jackson, Jason Li, Kate Spears, Maggie Matsui

“The hackathon was a great experience,” said Magnolia Caswell-Bick, Principal Game Designer and hackathon participant based in San Francisco, California. “Time constraints force us to take a nugget of an idea, make decisions quickly and collaboratively, and prove out the fun. Plus, the result was a fun minigame that could be on our new roster of minigame events.”

Congratulations to all of the winners and to those who completed the hackathon. We can’t wait to see what our Zynga and Take-Two teams continue to create as we work together to connect the world through games!